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5 Steps To a Healthy Relationship After a Partner’s Infidelity

Dariia (MSc) is a couples therapist who utilises Emotional-Focused Therapy. In her practice, she specialises in helping people who suffer from the consequences of narcissistic abuse.

Last Updated on January 8, 2024 by It’s Complicated

For many years, infidelity has stood as a main cause of divorce. It only makes sense, as it’s hard to imagine any sort of friendly communication after being cheated, certainly not the bond strengthening between partners. But what if someone told you that there is a way to a trustworthy relationship afterwards? This article will guide you along the steps to take to a healthy relationship after a partner’s infidelity.

Here are 5 steps to take to move towards a healthy relationship.

Step #1: Acknowledge Your Trauma

The first step to a healthy relationship after a partner’s infidelity is acknowledgement. We all develop particular defence mechanisms that help us co-op with stressful situations in our life. Some of them are to avoid dealing with strong negative feelings like sadness, sorrow, anger, jealousy, disappointment, loneliness etc. 

While sometimes it is useful to put away your emotions and stay cold-minded, it is never beneficial in the long-term.

Cheating is a poor choice of action, no matter the reasoning. Without taking time and acknowledging your trauma, it will be very hard to move forward. Understanding your own feelings gives you the ability to comprehend and empathise with others.

Keeping it all to yourself or ignoring the pain inside of you has huge side effects like suppressed anger that may transform into self-harm or depression, guilt and shame that will affect your self-esteem. The worst of it all, the burden of those buried feelings can come up in your next relationship as severe trust issues.

Step #2: Get In Your Partner’s Shoes

I know it doesn’t sound exactly what you want to hear. Believe me, I know it’s way easier to assume your partner is just an absolute evil who is here to hurt you for unknown reasons. However, empathy will be a crucial part to forming a healthy relationship after a partner’s infidelity.

The very first thing to understand about infidelity is that it doesn’t come from a place of happiness. It’s not like your partner is so content in one relationship, that he/she decides to secretly start another. On the contrary, usually it comes from a place of loneliness, insecurities, emotional disconnection. It may sound ridiculous, but in my counselling practice I often witness cheating as a result of fear of hurting or losing a partner.

In that specific case, it happens when we put our partner’s life and emotions on the first place, at the same time putting down and burying our own feelings, fears and discomfort. In the end, with the best intentions for the significant other, we fall deeper into loneliness, feeling unheard and unseen. That leads to miscommunication, distancing, fighting. As a result, it may lead to cheating.

couples therapy prevent separation

Step #3: Communication Is The Key

No matter the issues people face in their (intimate or not) relationships, the one and only problem is miscommunication or complete lack of it. Things like anger, loneliness, mistrust, cheating, separation are the results of the same problem.

It’s understandable. For some people, identifying emotions takes a lot of effort and courage. Talking about feelings can be very scary, uncomfortable, and risky. It is scary to be misunderstood, judged, devalued; to be yelled at or to be met with silence; to be misinterpreted or feel unheard.

It’s way easier to yell at your partner out of pain and anger. It is harder to say: “I yell at you because deep down I feel so alone.” It’s always easier to escape an intense fight by running away to another room and shutting the door. It takes a lot of courage to say instead: “When you explode and yell at me, I feel so small, helpless and unwanted that it’s unbearable.”

Step #4: Talk Feelings, Not Facts

After accepting your own feelings and recognising your partners’ possible reasons for betrayal, it is time to talk. This is the most chaotic and complicated part as usually, with the best intentions in mind, we tend to fall into the wrong direction.

One wrong face expression, one wrong word or intonation can be the trigger to any of your typical fights, full of arguing who is right or wrong, blame, passive aggression or even hatred. As you understand, there is hardly any space to be vulnerable and reveal your feelings. It takes a lot of patience and self control to not fall into this cycle again.

Being cheated on is very painful and disappointing. But keep in mind that your partner must be going through a lot as well: regret, pain, fear to lose you forever, self-blame or even self-hatred.

Setting boundaries in a relationship

Step #5: Get Counselling

As good and solid it sounds on paper, it might seem impossible to realise all of these steps in real-time action. When we deal with infidelity, very strong emotions come around. It’s easy to let them overtake any rationality and get lost in your trauma, falling deeper into the vicious cycle.

Couple therapy is a practical solution to make this experience less harmful. Therapist’s role is to be a mediator, and to guide you through this process by creating a safe environment for both of you where it is easier to take risks and be vulnerable. Read our article on beginning your therapy journey.

What type of therapy is best to heal from a partner’s infidelity? 

One of the best working methods is Emotionally-Focused therapy (EFT). The key thing about Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples is that it’s the only method that uses a well-tested and proven empirically theory about how adults form close bonds to understand and help fix relationship problems. Research shows that 70%-75% of couples move from distress to recovery and 90% show significant improvements when therapists use EFT strategies and techniques. This is why EFT is a key choice for people who want to build a healthy relationship after a partner’s infidelity.

Further reading: 

Hold me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love by Dr. Sue Johnson

The Love Secret: The revolutionary new science of romantic relationships by Dr. Sue Johnson

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